Modernisation of civil aviation sector can transform connectivity in BBIN

Economics Times, December 03, 2020

Integration of the transport network is crucial, particularly to Nepal and Bhutan and the north-eastern states of India. Such integration, on the one hand, helps to end their landlocked or semi-remote status by providing shorter and quicker transport links to the seaports.

Bangladesh, as a coastal country, would also benefit from increased air and road connectivity and better transport linkages within the sub-region. The BBIN countries should strive for enhancing collaboration in creating a viable civil aviation system with a focus on modernisation of airports, airlines, and air navigation systems and maintain air safety for strong and coordinated growth of the transport sector, recommended CUTS International, a leading public policy body.

Due to contiguous locations, the supply chains in BBIN countries are largely based on road and rail transportation rather than air. Airfreight is commonly needed for high-value low volume goods and those requiring quick delivery. Some of such products are handicraft, jewelry, apparel, carpets, tea, coffee, cardamom, and medicinal herbs among others, CUTS International said in a recently brought out briefing paper ‘Aviation Logistics in BBIN Sub-region’.

However, there is a need of integrating various modes of transport to ease the market access; moving goods from the production centre to the consumer’s market through the multi-modal system to achieve efficiency and reducing the cost of transportation. The aviation services among the BBIN countries are mostly confined between the capital cities. This is particularly true in the case of Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal, according to the briefing paper.

There are prospects of establishing air linkages between other cities and industrial hubs, which remains unexplored. Such cities could be Pokhara, Biratnagar, and Bhairahawa in Nepal; Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, and Saedpur in Bangladesh and Shillong and Guwahati in north-east India. Hence, the air services should be developed in the sub-region in the hub and spoke fashion; the airports in capital and major cities serve as a hub and other industrial and business centers as spokes, according to the paper.

New Delhi, Kolkata, Dhaka, and Kathmandu airports could be developed as air hubs of the subregion. The feasibility of air linkages could be explored between other business centres like Pokhara-Paro (Bhutan), Biratnagar-Syedpur (Bangladesh), Pokhara-Lucknow (India), BhairahawaPatna/Bodhgaya, Bhairahawa-Kolkata, KathmanduGuwahati (India), and Dhaka-Guwahati and vice versa as new destinations, the paper recommended.

The bilateral air service agreement should be revisited and made more liberal that include open skies arrangements allowing any number of airlines of the BBIN countries, having unlimited rights to fly between the cities, without significant restrictions on capacity, frequency or price, the paper further recommended.

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